Three teens charged in attack; another charged with witness harassment
UPDATED 4:20 p.m. Friday
CHAMPAIGN — Three Champaign teens have been charged in connection with an October attack on an Australian researcher visiting Champaign-Urbana who was beaten, robbed and dumped in a field north of Champaign.
Champaign police Thursday arrested Ralph Clifford Gray, 17, and Dorian Wills, 17, who both listed the same address in the 1100 block of Northwood Drive South, for the Oct. 21 attack on Clinton Fookes, a 33-year-old visitor to Champaign-Urbana.
They were charged Friday with aggravated kidnapping and robbery, as was Anthony D. Davis, 17, whose last known address was in the 2400 block of North Neil Street. Bond was set at $750,000 for each.
Detective Robb Morris, who has worked the case since it happened, said Davis is currently in the Department of Corrections. Two other teens were with them the night of the robbery but Morris said they will likely not be charged since they had no role in the attack.
Another man was charged Friday with harassment of a witness for allegedly threatening to kill on Thursday one of the men who was cooperating with Champaign police.
Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler said Lawrence Miller, 18, of the 700 block of Sherwood Terrace, Champaign, is not believed to have been involved in the attack on Fookes but is friends with some of the men who are accused. He's being held in lieu of $250,000 bond and is due back in court Feb. 7.
Fookes is a researcher in artificial intelligence who came to the United States for a conference in Washington, D.C., and decided to visit colleagues at the Department of Computer Science at the UI.
He had been staying at the Holiday Inn on North Lincoln Avenue in Urbana and was supposed to leave for home on the day of his attack, which left him hospitalized for five days with bleeding on the brain, a broken nose, a cut to the head and scrapes and bruises.
Morris said when Fookes left his hotel that night, he planned to get something to eat and to play pool.
He made his way to downtown Champaign on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 20, and visited a couple of bars but was not impaired by alcohol, Morris said.
Because Fookes couldn't remember much of what happened, Morris had little to go on when the attack was first reported.
What he did know was that the victim was found naked from the waist down and bleeding in the 4300 block of North Mattis Avenue, about a half-mile north of the High School of St. Thomas More, on Friday, Oct. 21, about 8 a.m.
His watch, identification and other personal effects were missing. Covered in blood, he staggered to the road and tried to flag down help. Morris said more than three dozen cars went by before someone stopped to help him.
Morris said it was information developed from the stolen items that led police to the suspects.
"We were able to identify and locate the mini-van that was used. It was stolen. And we discovered there were five people in the van, not including the victim. All five have been identified," he said, adding that Wills, Gray and Davis were the three primarily responsible for the beating and kidnapping.
Morris said he has taken statements from four of the five and learned that robbery was on their mind that night.
"Before this group went out that night, they got together at someone's house and had a conversation about the fact that none of them had any money and they needed to get some. So they left the house that night with the intent to commit a robbery," he said.
The van they were using had been stolen Oct. 17 from the 2400 block of North Neil St. Morris said he's unsure who stole it.
By the time the group encountered Fookes, he had already left downtown Champaign and it was after midnight on Thursday, Oct. 20.
"They encountered him east of Lincoln on Green Street in Urbana and I think it was too busy a location to do anything there. They coaxed him into getting into the van and they drove to a nearby park," he said.
"He doesn't remember anything about this. He thought there were four to five involved and a van but had the color wrong and no significant memory of anything else. I think he realized he was horribly lost and wanted a ride," Morris said, explaining why the man would have taken the ride.
The group drove him to Crystal Lake, robbed him, beat him, then dumped him half naked in a field on North Mattis Avenue.
"When he came to, he saw lights and went to the house. It was unoccupied and went to the barn to find a way to keep warm. They stripped him of his pants, underwear, socks and shoes," Morris said.
Morris said he got his first solid lead in the case on Halloween and "then it was just steady progress with information after that."
He said he spoke with Fookes Thursday and learned that he is recovering nicely and is back to work.
"He's surprised we were able to piece this together and very happy with our progress," said Morris.